Right about now, TV viewers should be getting antsy. Hey, this is September. When will the new network TV seasons start?
Soon, but in trimmed form. The two most reluctant networks finally have plans:
– NBC will bring back some of its top shows in a four-week stretch between Oct.19 (“The Voice”) and Nov. 13 (“The Blacklist”). That November week also includes “This Is Us” (shown here), “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and all three Chicago shows. Many others, however, will wait until January or beyond.
– ABC will prop up four of its nights with games or reality shows – Mondays, starting Sept. 14; Thursdays, Sept. 24; Tuesdays, Oct. 13; and Sundays, Oct. 18. Its scripted shows remain in limbo.
The other commercial broadcast networks have a different approach: Most shows will wait until January, but there will be makeshift line-ups soon; Fox and CBS start on Sept. 21, the CW on Oct. 4.
Others – working with longer lead times and shorter schedules – have kept up a steady supply.
Streaming networks? For Labor Day weekend, they launched five series or mini-series (three debuts, two season-openers), plus three movies, including the epic “Mulan.”
Cable? On Sept. 27 alone, there are three key debuts – “Fargo” on FX, the first half of “Comey Rules” on Showtime and a John Lewis documentary on CNN. A week later, AMC wraps the “Walking Dead” season and launches a sequel.
And PBS? It’s already busy. You could call “Van der Valk” – which has three movie-length mysteries on Sundays, starting Sept. 13 – the first scripted show of the broadcast season.
But to many, the fall is all about the commercial broadcasters. Let’s start with the latecomers:
The big bursts will come on Oct. 19-20 (“The Voice,” on Mondays and Tuesdays) and then in the second week of November. That’s when the seasons open for “This Is Us” (Nov. 10), the Chicago dramas (Nov. 11), “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Nov. 12) and “The Blacklist”(Nov. 13).
Only a couple comedies, both on Thursdays, will start early. “Connecting” – a new social-distancing show with friends communicating virtually – will start Oct. 1; “Superstore” returns Oct. 22.
That still leaves most shows until January or later – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “New Amsterdam,” “Manifest,” “Making It,” “Good Girls,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” and all of the new ones.
Meanwhile, NBC has sports (football Sunday nights, hockey some Saturdays) and other games. On Mondays, it has “American Ninja Warrior,” with a “Weakest Link” reboot (hosted by Jane Lynch) joining it on Sept. 28. On Tuesdays, “America’s Got Talent” is wrapping up, leading into the Canadian medical drama “Transplant”; “Ellen’s Game of Games” takes the 8 p.m. slot, starting Oct. 6.
If you ignore the reruns, the network will be entirely non-fiction for a while. That includes:
– Mondays: “Dancing With the Stars” starts its season Sept. 14. Two weeks later, “Emergency Call” debuts at 10 p.m., viewing crises through the people taking the calls.
– Tuesdays: “The Bachelorette” finally arrives Oct. 13. This is the Clare Crawley one, planned for summer and then delayed.
–Thursdays: Games – “Celebrity Family Feud,” “Press Your Luck.” “Match Game” – start Sept. 24.
– Fridays: “Shark Tank” starts Oct. 16, leading into “20-20.”
– Sundays: More games, starting Oct. 18, after the “America’s Funniest Home Videos” opener. There’s the new “Supermarket Sweep,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” (with celebrities and first-responders) and “Card Sharks.”
Filling in the empty spaces, ABC has the basketball playoffs and lots of specials, including the Emmys on Sept.20 and the Country Music Association awards on Nov. 11. It also has an hourlong “Blackish” special (tentatively Oct. 4), partly using animation, with Junior preparing for his first time voting.
Two late-starting summer shows will sprawl into the fall. “Love Island” continues every night, through Sept. 29; “Big Brother” is three nights a week, through Oct. 28.
And after a batch of summer specials, “Greatest #At Home Videos” becomes a series on Sept. 25.
There’s more reality; “Undercover Boss” starts Oct. 2, “Amazing Race” (originally planned for summer) Oct. 14. And more non-fiction – “48 Hours” (Sept. 12) and “60 Minutes” (Sept. 20), plus two new shows – “48 Hours: Suspicion” (Sept. 9) and “FBI Declassified” ((Oct. 13).
And a tad of fiction shows, which have aired elsewhere. There’s “Manhunt: Deadly Games” (starting Sept. 21) from the Spectrum cable system, the first “Star Trek: Discovery” season (Sept. 24) from CBS All Access and the only six episodes of the “One Day at a Time” reboot (Oct. 12) that aired on Pop.
The network found itself with lots of shows that can continue in a COVID era.
That includes Sunday cartoons – “Simpsons,” “Bless the Harts,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy” – starting Sept. 27. It also includes wrestling on Fridays, pro football on Sunday afternoons (plus Thursday nights, starting Oct. 8), baseball and “The Masked Singer” (Sept. 23).
To round out the schedule, Fox held back two dramas intended for spring or summer – “Filthy Rich” (Sept. 21) and “NeXt” (Oct. 6). It added a new game, “I Can See Your Voice” (Sept.23) to plunk after “Masked Singer.” And it took two shows that have aired elsewhere – “L.A.’s Finest” (Sept. 21) was on Spectrum and “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” (Sept. 22) was on National Geographic.
Other shows will have to wait, including late renewals “Prodigal Son” and “Last Man Standing.”
All of the top scripted shows will wait until January, with one key exception: “Supernatural” suspended its 15th and final season because of COVID; now its final seven episodes start Oct. 8.
That wraps up a stretch in which CW introduces a string of scripted shows. Some are delayed from summer – “Pandora” (Oct. 4) and “The Outpost” (Oct.8). Some are from other countries; the French “Devils” starts Oct. 7, alongside the second season of the Canadian “Coroner.”
And others aired elsewhere. “Swamp Thing” (Oct. 6) was on DC Universe; “Tell Me a Story” (starting its second season Oct. 13) was on CBS All Access.